1/28/17 Carlos about 30
What do people mean when they say “Just have faith”? At face value, it sounds spiritual enough. But after a guy named Carlos at my local coffeeshop told about his beliefs, I found out what he meant by it was far short of the kind of “faith” for salvation spoken of by Jesus. Carlos is a social worker who believes “god” is a sort of energy source that powers the universe. Two weeks ago, he decided to begin going back to his family church as a way to spend more time with his parents. After his first two church services in many years, I asked what had stood out to him. “The importance of just having faith” he said.
I’ve learned the importance of defining terms in Gospel conversations. Of course “having faith” in Christ for salvation is foundational to salvation, but is that what Carlos meant by this? Not exactly. “For me, having faith means believing everything will turn out okay in the end” he said. In other words, for him it basically means having an optimistic and positive attitude in life. Carlos has come to believe that this “energy source’ god he believes in somehow works out different situations in his life to make them turn out okay. Because of this, he said he is open more than ever to new ways of thinking he hadn’t considered before.
Actually, this is progress from the mindless energy source he had been believing in. I told him about Hebrews 11:9, which says “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” “The Bible does say that faith is what pleases God, but it isn’t just a positive attitude, it’s a belief that the very distinct personality called God as revealed in the Bible actually does exist and that His character is such that He will reward those who seek Him.”
We went on to talk about different things we had done in life that required faith and faithfulness to continue through a period of struggle and confusion until we had reached a level of reward. I talked about how hard it was to begin learning to play guitar or to speak Spanish for example, but how it led to tremendous reward in the end. “Reading the Bible can be like that” I told him. “If you are looking for a reason not to read it, you will probably find it, but if you have some degree of faith that the effort will be worth it in the long run, you keep at it.” I wasn’t talking about faith for salvation, the kind of faith that can only come from God. I was trying to encourage Carlos to have faith that the sacrifices needed to read the Bible and go to church regularly would be well worth it. I did share the Gospel with Carlos, but because he is so new to even considering Christianity, I focused on encouraging him toward the faithfulness required to at least have regular exposure to God’s Word and its faith-giving power.